It’s budget season in Scarborough, and once again the pitchforks are out in protest of what some view as irresponsible spending. While no one likes to pay higher taxes, much of the rhetoric misses the mark. Rather than targeting the School Board and Town Council, disgruntled taxpayers should direct their ire to Augusta. In the meantime, Scarborough residents of all stripes must step up to support our schools.
We face a school funding challenge not because of a lack of fiscal discipline at the local level, but because Gov. LePage’s Draconian cuts in state aid to municipalities have shifted more of the burden to Maine’s local governments. Scarborough’s share has been reduced by about 20 percent since 2009, and the cuts are expected to continue. It is noteworthy that the local property tax hikes being discussed would still leave our tax rate among the lowest in the greater Portland area.
Scarborough’s per-pupil school spending is below the state average, and significantly below that of neighboring towns. While spending is by no means the only predictor of student success, this fact belies the idea that Scarborough spends lavishly on its students and teachers.
We hope we can all agree that the level of voter participation has been shameful. The dog-leash ordinance referendum, which was held during the heart of the holiday season, on relatively short notice, attracted nearly twice as many voters as the May 3 school budget vote. What does that say about our community’s values?
Cory & Katie Fellows